Category Archives: Richard Capobianco

Heidegger and the hermetic traditions

There is much to be said concerning “Heidegger and the Hermetic Traditions,” […] and we need to include the many different Western traditions of thinking that I broadly refer to as the Hermetic/Gnostic/Neoplatonic/Alchemical/Mystical traditions.

Of course, there are many such non-Western traditions as well, but for this note, I limit consideration to the traditions that no doubt influenced Heidegger—but about which he largely remained silent. These are, in name, “metaphysical” ways of thinking, but certainly not “onto-theological,” and this crucial distinction was often not made explicit by Heidegger. In fact, perhaps one of the weakest features of his “history” of “onto-theology” is how he sometimes could be dismissive of, for example, the long and rich Neoplatonic traditions of thinking as “onto-theology.”

For some reason, Heidegger refused to wrestle with the Neoplatonic “metaphysics” that was precisely not “onto-theological” insofar as it insisted that the One is beyond (epekeina) any such categories as substance, essence, subject—indeed, beyond all categorization.

We could say, perhaps, that Heidegger’s focus was on “overcoming” specifically dominant onto-theological ways of thinking, and especially the Aristotelian-Thomistic substance metaphysics and the Descartes to Husserl subject metaphysics. 

Nonetheless, we need to take a fresh look at Heidegger’s thought, and especially his later thought, in order to recognize major themes that revive or at least echo many of the themes of the heterodox and variant “metaphysical” and “spiritual” traditions. Thus, let us make a helpful list of such Heideggerian themes (not exhaustive, of course):

1. Being as the gleaming, shimmering Light that is the “Source” (Ursprung) of all lights and that shines “ungraspably” through all things. This is the Light (Clearing) of light and darkness.

2. Being as “gold” in his readings of Pindar’s Odes.

3. Being as “beyond” all beings, but yet the Source of all beings.

4. The thinking of Being not limited to “reason” and “logic” and even “the principle of non-contradiction.” Being as approachable in thought as a kind of coincidentia oppositorum.

5. Being as “mystery” (Geheimnis); Being as the “Source” that holds itself in “reserve”; Being as aletheia or A-letheia.

6. Being as “beyond” “God” and “the gods”—and instead Being as “the Holy,” “the Source,” “the Joyful One,” and even as the clearing of “the Godhead of God” (die Gottheit des Gottes).

7. Being as “invisible” and “inapparent” (aphanes) in relation to beings.

8. Being as ultimately beyond language and “inexpressible”—and inviting our “silence” as the highest response or “cor-respondence.”

 9. Being as “round” and as “circle” and “sphere.”

10. All beings “breathing” in and out in Being.

11. The emphasis on our human task to peel away the many layers of philosophical and theological thought-forms to allow for a radical openness and transparency and “hearkening” to Being.

12. The call for our “releasement” (Gelassenheit) from our ego-prisons of control in order to be “free” for the appeal of Being.

13. The boundless “depth” of the human “soul” (psyche) in relation to Being.

14. The “closeness” and “proximity” of Being to the human being—the “nearness” of Being that has been “forgotten.”

This list provides us with a starting point for a richer and deeper meditation on all the ways that the variant “metaphysical” and “spiritual” traditions of thinking influenced Heidegger’s own thinking of Being and his understanding of the “relation” of the human being (and all beings) to Being. 

And this list also raises for us the intriguing question of why Heidegger was mostly reticent about this influence. Could it be that he had also well-learned the Hermetic lesson that “The lips of wisdom are closed except to the ears of understanding”? Might this help us better understand why he always insisted that what he was saying about Being was “intimated by only a few”? Perhaps.

In any case, my suggestion is a simple and modest one: Let us follow this particular path of inquiry, and we may be surprised at what we find—and maybe also richly rewarded.

— Richard Capobianco, note (references removed; see also Ch. 15 of Capobianco, Heidegger’s Being: The Shimmering Unfolding)

Ultimate matters

I am aware that some readers will be surprised or puzzled by the suggestions in these pages that the later Heidegger’s reflections often leaned in the direction of a refashioned “metaphysical” outlook; but as I see it, the texts themselves tell the tale, and I am hopeful that readers will join me in attending closely to what they have to say. Moreover, I gently remind readers that genuine thinking, by whatever name, is inevitably led to consider, in one way or another, all things and ultimate matters. Heidegger’s vision of Being was, in the end, simply too far-reaching and all-embracing to be limited to the sphere of the human. We are part of the story, to be sure, but not the whole story of what he poetically described – inspired especially by Heraclitus’s sayings – as this “shimmering kosmos.”

— Richard Capobianco, Heidegger’s Being

Being is everlasting, but also on the way into its own truth.


There is nothing higher, nothing more primordial, nothing more present, but also nothing more inapparent and nothing more indestructible that can be thought than being itself.

— Heidegger, via here

Is it perhaps because we live in a philosophical age that cannot bear broaching metaphysical or ontological issues and questions? Is it perhaps because we live in an age that cannot bear that there may be more than human being and the “world” that we construct? Is it perhaps because we live in an age that cannot bear the thought that there may be an ultimate underlying unifying unity to all things that beckons us to listen in awed silence and that is the Source of joy for us beyond every heartache? These are important questions for us in the present age, and I suggest that we need to be more attentive to them.

Richard Capobianco

Every leaf seems to speak

Hermeneutical thinking in general is focused on the human being “hearkening” to other human beings and engaging in “dialogue,” in good faith, in the pursuit of a (finite and fragile) shared understanding. Yet Heidegger is clear in this lecture course (and in many other places) that our legein, our “gathering” (the “knowing” and “wisdom” spoken of in Heraclitus’s sayings), is first and foremost a matter of the silent (and obedient) hearkening to “the voice” of Being as the primordial Logos, “the primordial fore-gathering” (242–6, 383). It would seem, then, that from his perspective the primary focus in Hermeneutics on “dialogue” among human beings (as constitutive and important as this surely is) is misplaced because such conversation cannot have the proper depth and discovery unless we have first listened attentively to the “saying” of the Being-way itself. It is our attunement to Being that matters in the first place, and – let us put this plainly – this does not require social or communal discourse. As he remarks in the lecture course, our “highest possible relation” is with Being, a relation that “grounds all other human relations to human beings and to things” (294). For the later Heidegger in particular, the rich solitude of silent listening to Being-physis-Logos as it unfolds is the primary way. Yet paradoxically, it is also the way that leads to perhaps the richest kind of community – the “community” of all mortals and beings and things as they come forth from out of the Being-way and go forth the same way. Arriving, lingering, departing; everything “breathing in and out.” We might add, and only gently so, that this meditative way appears to be increasingly lost or forgotten in the contemporary world, not only in our intensely “connected” culture, but also in the various recent versions of hermeneutical thinking that focus almost exclusively on the linguistic, the social, and the political.

[…] We may move closer to Heidegger’s way of thinking by considering the ways of those who have been imbued with a deep reverence for Nature, someone like the great American naturalist John Muir:

When one is alone at night in the depths of these woods, the stillness is at once awful and sublime. Every leaf seems to speak.

Every leaf seems to speak. In stillness, we “hear” the leaf and the flower, the wind and the rain, the sun and the moon “speaking.” Muir’s words resonate with us, but more often than not our way to a fuller understanding and appreciation of them is blocked because we are so accustomed in the contemporary world to think that the human being is the source and measure of all “saying.”

— Capobianco, Heidegger’s Way of Being

Always more

The presence of things to us is never exhausted by meaning: a friend, the sea, the tree, the flower — all that present themselves to us — are always more than how we present them. Cezanne painted Mont Sainte-Victoire more than sixty times by several accounts, but never once did he think he had exhausted its showing, its manifestation.

— Richard Capobianco, Heidegger’s Way of Being


In astonishment, we hold ourselves back (être en arrêt). We step back, as it were, from beings, [astonished] that they are rather than are not. And astonishment is not exhausted in this stepping back before the Being of beings; but as this stepping back and holding oneself back, it is at the same time enraptured by and, as it were, held fast by that from which it steps back.

— Heidegger, ‘What is Philosophy?’ (tr. Capobianco)

All things rolling into manifestation. All things rolling into and out of presence. All things rolling and gathering into language.

Richard Capobianco